In Lay Terms

Random Ramblings From a Church Nerd

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

I'm a Lutheran...Not a Lutheran Supremacist

I have someone whom I have deemed my "conservative sounding board." He is someone who is very willing to listen and challenge. I know that he does care for me, so our conversations are not a fight, or an opportunity to put one another down. I think we both learn a lot from each other.

Of course, one of our main conversations are about the gays and the Lutheran Church (well, the ELCA, at least). He is a Lutheran historian...sometimes I think he wishes that we all lived in 16th Century Europe. Anyway, he has told me that he is less involved/concerned about issues of sexuality. His main beef is with the ecumenical movement.

A few years ago, the ELCA made an agreement with the Episcopal Church. People wigged out. The ELCA also has agreements with several other denominations, to various degrees. My friend states that these agreements weaken Lutheran theology. I stew on this every so often, so I'll do it for you. Maybe you can help me understand it.

I am a Lutheran. I have been one since birth. One could argue that I would be whatever religion/denomination I was born into. That may be true, but the fact is that I was born into the Lutheran Church. I happen to believe the tenant that we are saved by grace through faith. These are all acts of God. We are powerless to work toward our own salvation. It's a good theology that seems more true to me every day.

However, I also understand the shortcomings of my own denomination. We often are way to cerebral. We have a hard time relating to one another. We also tend to divide the two kingdoms further than we should.

Back to my friend's complaint. He is worried about losing Lutheran theology if we continue to work with other denominations. If his fear were founded, then it means that we aren't doing a very good job of raising future generations of Lutherans. It's starting to sound reminiscent of the old gay argument: exposure to the "Episcopalian" lifestyle will corrupt good Lutherans into abandoning their faith for another denomination.

We need to teach Lutherans to be comfortable enough with Lutheran faith and theology that our identity is not threatened by other denominations, polities, or practices. If someone were to abandon Lutheranism for something else, perhaps they weren't all that Lutheran in the first place. They may achieve better faithful growth in a different environment. The fault may actually lie in the folks who had the duty to instill a Lutheran theology in that person: the family, the clergy, the Sunday School teacher, etc. We can't keep teaching our kids theology that doesn't fit into our denomination and then week and nash our teeth when they leave for an environment that matches that other theology.

This is particularly relevant to me and other GLBTQA Lutherans (and probably to GLBTQA folks who claim a particular denomination). Every time there is some discriminatory act committed by the ELCA, or a subsidiary thereof, the question always is raised about leaving the church. I really don't know where I would go. I don't think I would fit into any other denomination very well. There are some particular aspects to being Lutheran that I cannot let go. I would miss those in a denomination that is more fully accepting of me as a gay man.

I hope that this writing is not offensive to any reader who is not Lutheran. I feel comfortable enough with my Lutheranism to find those things I appreciate about other denominations. I'd list them, but then I'd leave someone else out, and they would feel bad. Please comment and let me know if my words ring true, or if I'm just spinning my tires.


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